Welcome To The Wheat Montana Natural White Flour Test
Part of the Big Flour Test
|Please note - we are not connected with any flour vendor mentioned on this web site. We can't tell you where to find any of these flours outside our own home town, and we have no idea why the vendor discontinued your favorite flour, or why your favorite recipe is no longer on the back of the package. And now... here's the review of this flour.....|
Where we bought it: Super Walmart, Montrose, Colorado
What we paid for it: $3.19 for 5 lbs in 2002
Protein content: 13%
Interesting Vendor Story: Wheat Montana is a family owned business that prides themselves on producing a quality product. They also own bakeries, so they know what bakers want.
Our first impressions: As with the Wheat Montana Prairie Gold, this flour is packaged in sealed plastic bags, and a twist-tie is included so you can reseal the bag. The flour looked and smelled good. A very pure white color, which is very nice since the flour is neither bleached nor bromated. Flour will self-bleach if you just let it stand for a few weeks, but most millers don't take the time - a shot of bleach will clear up pesky colors. (In fairness to millers who bleach their flour, the health and baking implications of bleaching flour are still under debate. However, bleached flour cannot be (as I understand these things) sold in Europe and it is not Kosher.)
When we started baking with this flour, we were amazed at how viscous our starters and doughs were. We had to pry them out of bowls, and dividing the dough was not at all easy. On the other hand, our starter loved it, and it rose like nobody's business.
Any special reason we're testing this flour: We've been hearing how great Wheat Montana products are, so we thought we'd check it out.
How'd we screw up the tests this time? Well, we are still refining the time line, and we made too much starter and forgot to scale the Ciabatta recipe down. So, we ran out of flour in the Ciabatta recipe. We were able to do the slump tests, but we had to finish preparing the Ciabatta with other flour. Rocky Mountain Milling's Artisan flour. We had planned on re-doing the Ciabatta test when we got some more Wheat Montana Natural White flour. However, we never got any more of this flour, and we've stopped doing the flour tests. We won't report on the mixed flour Ciabatta, except to say it came out very nicely. Depending on how the rest of our tests go, we may make this mistake again. AND we never took the "Family Portrait".
What do we think of this flour? We think it worked well in the rye bread, where it got out of the way of the rye/caraway taste. It delivered a nice crust and crumb in all breads, but the taste was too bland for all the all-white flour breads. It is advertised as working well in bread machines, and we think it would deliver a good - if somewhat bland - loaf, which would please people who want a loaf more like what they buy in a grocery store. We think that this would be a good flour to mix with other, more flavorful, flours to deliver a lighter tighter crumb.
The Bohemian Rye Bohemian Rye was delightful. Good crumb, good rise, and a very nice caraway/rye taste. The Natural Wheat's protein/gluten levels helped add strength to the rye bread, and the bland (or neutral) taste of this flour allowed the rye tastes to come through.
Ciabatta As discussed above, the Ciabatta wasn't made according to our test recipe, so we won't comment on it until we re-do this portion of the flour test. At the current rate of progress, that should be on the 12th of Never.
Simple Sourdough Pan Bread - This was the first time we made the Simple Sourdough Pan bread. The Friends of Carl promised a robust sour flavor. The bread had a soft distinct and well defined crumb, and a nice crust. As advertised, the bread had a nice sour taste, however, the taste wasn't as defined as we'd expected. And the sour was the only significant flavor note. In short, the bland, or neutral, taste of the flour didn't work with the Simple Sourdough Pan bread. Further, the color of the crust wasn't as defined, uniform, or intense as we'd like. However, the crumb of the bread allowed us to make one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches we've ever made. Later tests have shown this bread to be unsurpassed for grilled cheese sandwiches. One of the Friends of Carl wishes we'd comment on other qualities of the bread. Sadly, with Wheat Montana's Natural White flour, there wasn't that much to comment upon. We liked other versions of this bread much more.
Three stage french bread, or pain au levain, had a softer crumb than any time we have made it in the past. It had a fairly open crumb, which is unusual for this bread. The crust was nice. What was surprising was how bland the bread was. It usually has a deep wheaty taste, with a good sour taste. Neither were present. It was, for lack of a better term, like a grocery store mass-market Italian bread. Again, the bland/neutral taste just didn't work with this bread.
Hydration Pictures As discussed, we took pictures at 60, 80, and 100% hydration. We found it interesting that the Natural White flour seems moist even at 60% hydration. Its sister flour, the Prairie Gold, was quite dry at both 80 and 60% hydration. This reinforces our belief that no system of measurement will allow you to make perfect bread the first time out with just a recipe and a bag of flour. The baker has to adjust the dough, whether that means adding more flour or water.